Last Saturday, I got to chat with this lady who I hadn’t seen in a long time. She is not my mother or my grandmother. In fact she really isn’t related at all, although I think we could go back a few generations and prove that we share common cousins.
My siblings and I called her Aunt Sherrell when we were growing up. She was a good friend to our family, but not just that. Every time we had a family crisis, she was there.
I’m pretty sure she was there to help when my dad was hurt in a car wreck, and when our house burned to the ground (but my memories of those times are pretty few because I was so little).
She was there when Matt age 2 fell in the trash fire and was covered in terrible burns. She made salve from comfrey, aloe Vera, and honey and helped my mom for more than just the first day.
She was there with a big pot of soup every time there was a new baby.
She was there when my mom was going through chemo treatments. She took some of us into her home for weeks (months?) because mom was so ill.
During that time I remember her teaching me that part of washing dishes is to clean the sink when you are done.
She was who my parents called the second time their home burned to the ground (this time, in the middle of the night.). That’s the kind of friend she is.
She taught me piano for some years. My sisters and I would walk over to her house after school. She would often give us a sleeve of Ritz crackers to split for a snack. (Just so you know, there are reliably 33 crackers in a sleeve. That meant a whopping 11 crackers each. It was luxury to have so many crackers each. ) My sisters and I took turns, 1 having a lesson and 2 playing Statego while we waited.
One time I was washing dishes with her and she told me how when she was a girl, her mother would assign all the chores for the day. She knew that once her chores were done, she was free to play. Because of this she learned to work quickly. She said her husband was only given one chore at a time as a boy, but he knew that as soon as he finished it, he would be given a new chore. So he did not learn to get his work done quickly. I’ve tried to remember that with my own kids and chores.
Sherrell could make anything that falls in the category of needlework. She cross stitched tapestries that looked like paintings by masters. She knitted and tatted lace. She told me once that as a girl, she did needlework in the evening while listening to radio programs with her sisters. She said that sometimes in later life as she sat knitting and counting stitches, whole radio programs would come back to her memory. She suspected that counting stitches had programmed those stories into her memory.
Sherrell had lots of heartbreaking things happen in her life and lots of hard things. But she has a great sense of humor, and a stubborn streak too. She told me that when she was a girl, she baby sat for a very large family. One day the father of the family said to her, “If they ever reinstate polygamy*, I want you to be my second wife.”
Sherrell looked him in the eye with her chin high and said,”No thank you. I intend to be a FIRST wife.” She wasn’t going to be second anything.
*Polygamy hadn’t been discontinued for very long at that point.
She taught seminary many years. Her last year teaching was my first year of seminary. That year was Doctrine and Covenants and Church history. She had lived such a pioneer life, that it felt like being taught the history by someone who had lived it. And she had lived all the principles. So she could bear testimony that the Lord’s promises are true.
One of her favorite scriptures is Doctrine & Covenants 123:17
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
I always saw her cheerful and calm no matter what calamity she was facing.
It was so great to talk with her for a few minutes last Saturday. I hope for many more times.